Watch kernel milk line as silage harvest nears

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A newly-tasselled corn field indicates that silage harvest is only 45 to 50 days away.

As producers speed down the runway toward silage harvest takeoff, dairy strategic accounts manager for Pioneer Seeds Canada Ashley Knapton says now’s the time to look at key factors that will influence silage quality and how a well-managed silage crop can contribute to farm profitability.

At the top of Knapton’s pre-harvest silage checklist is kernel processing. “Every time that we put a full kernel into that cow, and it comes out the other end, that means we didn’t capture any energy out of it,” she says. That’s why effective kernel processing is key to helping cows utilize the feed value of the crop. “Ideally, I’d love to see no kernels at all. That means that the cow’s rumen is going to have every chance that she needs to pick out all of those starch molecules and really capture all of that energy to make us a lot of milk.”

On a recent episode of RealAg Radio, Knapton tells host Shaun Haney that producers will also have to take note of how much rain the crop has received from planting to tasseling and the potential impact on the digestibility of brown midrib (BMR) and non-BMR corn silage crops.

“Then we can start to think about what considerations need to be made. If I had a lot of rain… I know that my digestibility is just not going to be as high as last year where I didn’t have as much rain,” notes Knapton. That means some re-balancing of rations will be required when the new silage crop hits the feed bunk.

Managing moisture at harvest is also a key consideration. Typically producers target overall plant moisture of 65 per cent for optimum fermentation, but “realistically, what we’ve learned is that probably the most ideal method is looking at that kernel milk line,” says Knapton.

“That cob is about 50 per cent of our overall yield, which means it’s really what’s influencing the dry down as that plant progresses from milk to starch. That’s what’s driving the dry down,” says Knapton. “You snap that cob in half and look at the kernels at the tip end and we’re going to be able to see that as it gets closer to half (milk line) is kind of the earliest we should go — three quarters is really ideal.”

Late-season plant health and how the silage is stored also need to be factored into the harvest decision “but we’ve seen a lot of folks do a really good job going only on kernel milk line.”

In the interview, Haney and Knapton also discuss whether there’s any difference in putting up silage for a dairy cow versus a beef animal.

Listen to the full interview below.

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